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Wisconsin Watch partners with Gigafact to produce fact briefs — bite-sized fact checks of trending claims. Read our methodology to learn how we check claims.


By one key measure, the average weekly wage for U.S. workers, adjusted for inflation, is less than 50 years ago.

U.S. Sen. Bernie Sanders, I-Vermont, made the claim during a Sept. 22, 2023, speech in Madison.

His staff cited U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics data reported by the Federal Reserve Bank for private-sector production and nonsupervisory employees.

That group includes workers who produce goods or provide services; it includes occupations such as doctors and lawyers.

The group’s average weekly earnings were $823 in August 2023, according to the latest monthly data.

That’s $31 lower than the inflation-adjusted $854 in August 1973, 50 years earlier.

The August 2023 amount is $149 higher than the $674 in August 1993, 30 years earlier.

The earnings generally trended downward from 1973 until the mid-1990s, a period that included high inflation.

Then earnings trended upward, peaking at $862 in May 2020. Since then they have declined.

This Fact Brief is responsive to conversations such as this one.


The Capital Times: One-on-one with Bernie Sanders

FRED (Federal Reserve Bank of St. Louis): Average Weekly Earnings of Production and Nonsupervisory Employees

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Tom Kertscher joined as a Wisconsin Watch fact checker in January 2023 and contributes to our collaboration with the The Gigafact Project to fight misinformation online. Kertscher is a former longtime newspaper reporter, including at the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel, who has worked as a self-employed journalist since 2019. His gigs include contributing writer for Milwaukee Magazine and sports freelancer for The Associated Press.